May 28, 1944 – April 16, 2013
Rita MacNeil was a popular Canadian folk and country singer who had the honor of outselling both Garth Brooks and Clint Black in Canada during 1990, at the height of their careers. Born and raised on the eastern tip of Nova Scotia, the incredibly shy MacNeil was 27 when she first performed on stage – relatively late by pop music standards. The year was 1971, and within just a few years, she recorded her first album and was becoming a popular draw along the Canadian folk festival circuit. Based on her growing popularity and work on behalf of women’s rights, MacNeil was secretly spied upon by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Security Service on the unwarranted suspicion that she had communist ties. Her first single of note was 1986’s “Flying On Your Own” which reached #42 on the Canadian charts and was covered by Anne Murray the following year. MacNeil went on to have numerous hits throughout the ’80s and ’90s, both in Canada and the UK. In all, she released 24 albums which sold in the millions. During the mid ’90s, MacNeil hosted her own CBC variety show, Rita And Friends. Over the course of her career, she was recognized with a Juno, five honorary doctorates, and was a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia. On April 16, 2013, Rita MacNeil died unexpectedly from complications of a surgery. She was 68.
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